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02/02/2010

Caught between ideology and economics in Afghanistan

A block or so away from the home we're staying at here in Kabul is a circle, maybe 200 feet around and it is filled with trash, three or four feet high.

 

Most days, two young men in orange government uniforms come to the circle and load the trash into big plastic bags. They spend the whole day there, but they never finish, and when they arrive the next day, it is filled with trash again. It is Sisyphus in an orange jump suit, a metaphor for a struggling and vexing nation.

 

In Afghanistan today, you have a war of ideology, but only among the leadership. The Taliban, still smarting from being summarily bounced from the country they terrorized until 2002, want to regain power. Sure, the leadership may well believe strongly that music and dance lead to the deepest circle of hell, but, as in most revolutions, the majority of the foot soldiers are just along for the ride.

 

Steve Earl, the great singer and songwriter who now lives in New York, has a song called "Mercenaries" about a couple guys who join Poncho Villa's army because "we hear that he's paying with gold." When there are no jobs, that's a powerful incentive, and here in Afghanistan the Taliban provide one of the nation's few reliable employers. 

 

That's why the Karzai government wants to offer the insurgents jobs... jobs paid for with your tax dollars.  He has no illusion that all of the Taliban soldiers will take him up on the offer...but what if twenty per cent do? That's twenty per cent less killing and twenty per cent fewer of their soldiers shooting at our soldiers.

 

The problem is a person with close ties with the Taliban says Karzai should be careful, that ideology runs deeper than he thinks. He said last week that some of those who take the jobs are doing so only to get closer to the enemy, so they can cause even greater destruction and death.

The trash pile grows, whether the guys in orange jumpsuits show up or not.

 

It's the economy, stupid. It almost always is. The Taliban insurgents aren't likely to take the new jobs and then send their female children to school and let their wives wear miniskirts and vote in the next election. They won't embrace an ideology they think is in opposition to their view of Islam. But maybe... maybe some will put down the machine guns for a while and try and provide a decent life for the wives they keep in burkha-clad servitude and the daughters they keep ignorant. Maybe it;s a start.

 

Or, it may be more trash for the pile. But I think the legend says that Sisyphus kept trying. Clearly the pile isn't going anywhere now. 

Jim Dolan

Comments

Mary Beth

Who's paying who to join the otherside and leave the taliban? Is it the US or Afghanistan?
And is it better than it was when you were last there?

generic cialis

i like this part of the blog:"It's the economy, stupid. It almost always is. The Taliban insurgents aren't likely to take the new jobs and then send their female children to school and let their wives wear miniskirts and vote in the next election. They won't embrace an ideology they think is in opposition to their view of Islam. But maybe... maybe some will put down the machine guns for a while and try and provide a decent life for the wives they keep in burkha-clad servitude and the daughters they keep ignorant. Maybe it;s a start." is very good

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